Bulldogs Struggle To Close out Second Half, Survive, 28-22 over Kentucky

Mississippi State saw another sloppy game come down to the wire and continued to struggle in the fourth quarter before winning their second consecutive game with a victory over Kentucky, 28-22. Dan Mullen might have had a few questionable calls, but he stayed undefeated against the Wildcats as MSU (4-3, 1-2) won their fifth-straight game over UK (1-6, 0-3).
Kentucky began the opening drive of the game at their own 25 following a kickoff sailing into the endzone. After a third down was converted, the Wildcats stalled in their own territory as the MSU defense rose to the occasion. The Bulldogs took over at their own 20 after a called fair catch on the punt.
MSU got a first down on second and nine with a screen pass to Robert Johnson for 13 yards. On third down, Dak Prescott found trouble in the pocket with Za'Darius Smith trying to clamp down on him. Prescott escaped, rolled to his right and made the throw across the field to a wide open Malcolm Johnson who hauled in the 60-yard pass for the touchdown. It was Prescott's longest touchdown pass of his career and put the Bulldogs on top, 7-0 with 11:14 left in the first.
The Wildcats would come right back with the answer. On third down and three from midfield, Maxwell Smith found Ryan Timmons on a screen where he broke several tackles on his way to a 51-yard touchdown. Kentucky tied it up at 7 with 8:38 remaining in the first.
MSU got the ball back at their own 25 and went to work immediately. Ladarius Perkins went off to the left and cut back right coming up a man shy for a touchdown taking it 35 yards down the field. Jameon Lewis hauled in a pass for a first down and Prescott carried the ball for seven yards to the 19 and MSU faced 3rd and three. On third, Prescott tossed the ball to Lewis on the option and great downfield blocking led to an easy six points from 19 yards out. MSU lead, 14-7 with 6:34 left in the first.
After a defensive stop, the Bulldogs made the change at quarterback with Tyler Russell checking into the game. His first play in, he found Joe Morrow for a 12-yard gain down to the MSU 31. The Bulldogs would stall three plays later, however, and MSU punted 46 yards from ]Devon Bell down to the UK 36.
Kentucky drove the ball into MSU territory at the 41, and the first quarter ended at 14-7, MSU. After three stops, the Bulldogs forced a 47-yard field goal by the Wildcats that went wide right. MSU took over at their own 30. State would get one first down and would stall at their own 49 and punt it away. A 41-yard punt sent the ball to the 10.
After a three-and-out, the Bulldogs started at their own 37. The Bulldogs came out with three-straight passes to Lewis. The junior dropped the first one but pulled in consecutive catches moving the ball past midfield. After converting a fourth down and two with a run up the middle from Prescott, the Bulldogs got another big run on the right side by the quarterback following his right guard. On the next play, Prescott took the play action pass and hit Lewis in the endzone for 17 yards and a touchdown. It was a 10-play 63-yard drive and MSU took the 21-7 lead with just over six minutes remaining.
The Bulldogs had opportunities to get stops on Kentucky's last drive of the half but two bad personal fouls on Nickoe Whitley had Kentucky in field goal range and Whitley on the bench. The Wildcats would stall and hit a 45-yard field goal to make the score 21-10, MSU with 31 seconds left in the half.
In the first half, the Bulldogs put up good yardage with 296 yards against 202 by Kentucky. MSU had 170 yards in the air and 126 on the ground on 39 plays. Prescott was 11-18 with 160 yards and two touchdowns as well as 39 yards rushing on six carries.
The Bulldogs began the second half with the ball at their own 19. State started with seven yards on their first two plays before Prescott his Perkins for 17 yards on a nice catch in traffic. State would stall three plays later, however, and punt the ball to Kentucky.
After a couple of punts from each team, MSU took over at the 15 but would eventually have to punt from its own endzone after Prescott was sacked on third. On the very next play, Bell dropped the snap in the endzone on the punt and the ball rolled into the back of the endzone for a safety. MSU lead 21-12 with 5:26 remaining in the third.
UK would make MSU pay even more quickly with a five-play 52-yard drive in just 1:01. Jo Jo Kemp took the ball on the left side and scored from 15 yards out to close the gap to 21-19 MSU with 4:19 remaining in the third quarter.
Kentucky would try to catch the Bulldogs off guard on the ensuing kickoff with an onside kick but was called for offsides. MSU took over at their own 26 after the following return and Perkins immediately gave MSU the first down with a 13-yard run. A couple of plays later, Prescott found Artimus Samuel across the middle of the field for a big 28-yard game. It was the true freshman's first career catch in his first game. State would hit pay dirt a few plays later when Prescott handed the ball to Lewis who threw it back to Prescott for the 17-yard touchdown. It was the second time this season that he threw a pass both going for touchdowns to Prescott. It was also the second time this season that Lewis threw, ran and caught a touchdown. MSU led 28-19 with 36 seconds left in the third.
After the two teams traded punts, Kentucky drove for a first down but that was all they could muster and would eventually hit a 44-yard field goal to close within six at 28-22 with 8:15 left in the ball game. State was looking to salt the game away on the next drive starting from their own 26. MSU converted on a third down pass to Malcolm Johnson for the first down on 11 yards and converted another third down immediately following with a nine yard Prescott rush. The Bulldogs saw a third down pass knocked down and they went for it on fourth down inside the Kentucky 40. Prescott rolled out but was dropped for a sack and the Wildcats had the ball in excellent field position trailing by six with 2 minutes remaining.
Kentucky moved the ball inside Bulldogs territory to the 30 with less than a minute remaining. Jalen Whitlow took a third down play up the middle only to find freshman Chris Jones who smothered him for a gain of only one. On fourth down and the game on the line, the Bulldogs got a rush on quarterback Maxwell Smith who overthrew his man and saw the pass nearly intercepted by safety Kendrick Market.
The Bulldogs would survive their second-straight game and moved above .500 for the first time thled the team in tackles with is season. Prescott had a career game passing the football as he was 23-34 for 268 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-leading 16 times and 70 yards while catching a 17-yard pass for his second reception touchdown of the season.
Lewis showed why he is the Bulldogs' biggest offensive weapon with 138 yards of total offense and three different touchdowns (rush, pass and reception) for an unprecedented second time this year. Deontae Skinner and Mckinney 11 and 10 respectively.
The Bulldogs now get ready to head to Columbia, South Carolina, for a matchup with South Carolina. MSU puts a four-game SEC East winning streak on the line.